After parts of Britain suffered at the force of the St Jude storm, many properties have been left needing urgent repair work. However TrustMark are urging homeowners to ensure they are hiring reputable tradespeople to complete the work and make their houses safe again.

The gale force winds, reaching up to 90mph in some places, knocked down trees, blew down fences, damaged roofs and contributed to widespread flooding when combined with the heavy rainfall. As a Government, industry and consumer protection group supported scheme to ensure consumers find reputable tradesmen with the right qualifications for the job, TrustMark recommend making use of their online database to ensure no one falls victim to rogue traders looking to make money off of a bad situation.

Stuart Carter, Head of Marketing at TrustMark said: "Following extreme weather conditions, bogus property repairers often trick people into paying high prices for unnecessary or shoddy work so I would advise consumers to be extra vigilant and only use reputable tradesmen you know are registered with either TrustMark, which is the only endorsement from Government, or a recognised trade association. And never agree to have work done by somebody who turns up uninvited on your doorstep."

Ray Horwood, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, said: "Our advice to property owners who are concerned about the condition of their roof is to contact a reputable roofing contractor for a proper assessment and, if necessary, to obtain at least three quotes for any works."

APL Committee Chairman, Mark Gregory, Chairman of the Association of Professional Landscapers added: "Old fences, weakened by rot and decay are easily damaged or brought down by the high winds so employing a landscaper to do repair work on your garden can often be a bit hit and miss with homeowners facing a lottery of companies who promise to carry out the work. Consumers can feel confident that by employing a TrustMark registered landscaper, the quality of work will remain high at all times and that a professional standard will be met."

Via Installer Online

Is your electricity bill made up of “hidden” charges? Well an energy expert seems to think so.

Energy suppliers and brokers have been challenged by energy expert, David Hunter, from global energy management company, Schneider Electric, to be open about these hidden costs. Unknown levels of commissions to energy brokers and price comparison websites are contributing to higher energy bill costs for householders and industry.

Speaking on BBC1’s Breakfast programme, Hunter said, that we are facing increasing energy bill announcements but weren’t being given full visibility of how the costs are made up. Asked to explain whether bill increases were justified, and what the reasons were behind the increases, Hunter said there was not enough competition in the market, and although we shouldn’t let the suppliers off the hook, increasing costs of green subsidies, energy efficiency schemes and rewiring Britain were adding more to bills at the moment than wholesale costs.

However, he further explained that an unknown portion of the "suppliers’ costs" on the bill is paid in the form of commission to energy brokers and price comparison websites. While these companies provide a valuable service, Hunter said, "One thing we don’t see broken down in the figures is how much money goes in hidden commission from the suppliers to those websites, and I think that would be interesting to see."

He added, "At a time when rising bills are placing real pressure on the cost of living, and also increasing the costs of British industry doing business, it has never been more important that all aspects of the bill are made transparent. From supplier/producer profits to green policy costs and broker commissions, all charges should be open and scrutinised so that homes and businesses don’t pay a penny more than they need to, just to keep the lights on.

"As a start, I call today on both suppliers and brokers to clearly state the amount of hidden commission included on energy bills, and would ask customers whether they are prepared to put up with secret third party costs at a time when bills are shooting up."

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Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

As a former All Black and Cardiff Blues rugby team captain, 36-year old Xavier Rush is someone sports fans have probably heard of. But after a successful sporting career at both domestic and international levels he’s finally hanging his boots up and moving on to the next stage of his life. Choosing to retrain to become a fully-fledged property developer, he approached Access Training Academies and recently completed our kitchen fitting course. Now he’s moving on toward even more qualifications to expand his trade resume and take on even more work.

We sat down with his to discuss his plans for the future and how he’s finding the change from a ball to a toolkit...

Now that you’ve retired, what’s next for Xavier Rush?

Now that I’ve finished my rugby career I knew I obviously needed to retrain in something. I’ve always enjoyed properties and doing them up so I’ve come here to get as many strings to my bow as possible. The more I can do the less people I’d need to get in for jobs and the less I’d need to pay out.

I first did carpentry when I was 18 and had just left school, but it’s great to have a facility so close to me and the speed at which you can build your skills up. I originally came to do kitchen fitting which I’ve completed, but there’s the Part P electrical component to it too which I’m doing now for the next two and a half weeks. After that I plan to crack on and do six weeks of plumbing as well!

How has the course been so far?

I’ve been really enjoying it and the tutors have been excellent. There’s always some things that you’re better at than others – some of the bends in the plumbing took some time to get my head around. But the more practice you have the better you get at it. You aren’t going to sail through every day – some days are worse than others but you often find once you’ve slept on it, you come back the next day and get it. It’s great to be learning new skills and really refreshing to have a change of career. A lot of people get a bit scared but I’m really looking forward to it – it’s life after rugby for me.

Will you miss the rugby life?

Of course there’s always aspects you will miss – the getting up for a big game like a Heineken Cup match, playing in front of a big crowd. I’ll miss those moments but there’s enough of them in the memory bank to call on every now and then. It’s nice to be on the other side of it now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career. I feel quite fortunate – it was a fairly long career and now I’m more excited about getting things started with my own business. It’s just time to move forward with life.

Look forward to more updates from Xavier Rush, who will be sharing his training experiences with us each week as he works towards his new qualifications. In the meantime if you have any questions you'd like to ask him about turning towards a brand new career, let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we'll pass the best ones onto him.

According to new research the British public have spend an alarming £2.6 million on fixing plumbing disasters, and now new online plumber search facility WaterSafe is warning homeowners about the cost of using a dodgy plumber.

The survery, which featured a sample of 2000 consumers, found that 69% admitted that they choose their tradesperson based solely on price, without worrying about their qualifications or if they're part of a registered scheme. As you can imagine though, this naievety comes at a price - 23% admitted to have fallen victim to a rogue plumber while a further 23% know someone it's happened to. The price of the average repair job? Try a whopping £426.

It seems the biggest problem is that sourcing a legitimate plumber just simply isn't a priority for people. 68% of respondants said they would trust the opinion of a friend or family member, and 27% would add a neighbour's referral on top of that. In comparison, only 21% (a mere fifth) said that they actually go on to check whether said plumber in properly qualified.

Interestingly, this blasé attitude clearly doesn't extend to the cost factor, with 69% stating they wouldn't trust a plumber to quote the right amount and always get a second opinion. Not surprising, given 33% claim they have been overcharged before. It seems all it really comes down to is who offers the cheapest price, regardless of the quality.

This is exactly what WaterSafe has been put together to end. It is a nation register, accreditation body and online directory that customers can use to locate credible plumbers and trademen in their area and hopefully pull the plug on rogue traders once and for all.

Kevin Wellman from WaterSafe said: "Our survey results are truly shocking. Whilst it is fully understandable that, times as they are, UK homeowners may need to be extra frugal, the price of putting cost before credentials can be catastrophic.

"Not using a properly qualified plumber is not only dangerous; it’s a false economy and could end up costing the homeowner thousands of pounds and a lot of hassle to put right. Furthermore, there are the safety implications. Water safety in the home is of paramount importance and by using a dodgy tradesman; homeowners are not considering the risk that contaminated water poses. For us, the motto is "be safe, be Watersafe"."

Former Watchdog presenter and TV personality Alice Beer supports the campaign to get the UK clued up on legitimate plumbers, adding: "WaterSafe's website allows consumers to search for an approved plumber in their area, ensuring that they are getting a safe and competent tradesman to carry out work in their home. By using a properly qualified professional with this scheme, we can work together as a nation to drive out unethical plumbers and raise safety standards."

Visit WaterSafe's official website for more details.

Via InstallerOnline

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If you are planning on becoming a professional plumber, make sure you do it the right way and get the proper qualifications. Not only will you be able to pride yourself on having the proper skills to get the job done, but you won't run the risk of facing hefty fines and possibly prison time should you be exposed. Do it the right way and come study at Access Training Academies. We offer intensive plumbing courses that will get you fully qualified in a matter of weeks. To find out more give our sales team a call on 0800 345 7492.

British housebuilders Persimmon Homes is launching a recruitment drive across its 24 businesses to find tradesman as it prepares to build more homes across the country.

They are looking for subcontractors, labour-only subcontractors and direct employees to help the business meet demand from buyers. Since April the company has already taken on 286 trade and apprentice direct employees and is now targeting people who may have left the industry or are looking for a new career.

The campaign has also seen Persimmon undertake research looking the perceptions of tradespeople among the UK public. HR director Richard Latham says that although enlightening, the responses do not paint a totally true picture of working in a trade in 2013:

“Our research shows that 78% of people in the UK view the work of tradesmen as skilled, which is extremely positive, but worryingly, 70% don’t feel the job is rewarding and 82% don’t feel it has a competitive salary. In our experience, this is extremely wide of the mark.”

He believes that even more worrying is the fact that 48% of people feel that the negative stereotypes surrounding tradesmen stop young people from pursuing a career in the industry.

"Our research found that the majority of people in London (67%), the South East (65%) and West Midlands (62%) think that there are limited jobs available to them, whilst 54% of the North East and 40% of Scots admit that it is extremely hard to find jobs in their local area.

"Our apprentice campaign is extremely popular and we will soon be kicking off our search for over 100 more young people to join us in 2014. We see young people as the future of our business and we invest both time and money in one of the best training programmes in the industry. Many of our senior personnel, including our current chief executive Jeff Fairburn, started in the industry as an apprentice."

Steve Roche, Persimmon’s group communications director, added: "Demand for new homes is definitely on the up, partly thanks to the government-led purchase schemes, such as Help to Buy, and also due to the general improvement in the economy."

Via HVP Magazine

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If you're looking for an active new career than this could be the opportunity you've been waiting for! A career in the construction one is not only a rewarding one financially, but also among the most satisfying and fulfilling in the country. But before you can experience this first hand, you're going to need the necessary skills and qualifications. Access Training specialises in all forms of construction, with experienced tutors more than ready to guide you toward the next step of your working life. To find out more contact us on 0800 345 7492.

Specialist recruiter Randstad CPE has published new research that shows construction professionals are among the most fulfilled workers in the UK.

In a poll of 2000 workers from a wide variety of industries, it was found that the IT sector and similar ones such as human resources, legal and marketing had the highest level of professional fulfillment at 73%, but construction was following closely at 66%. In addition to this 13% of UK workers said said were unfulfilled in the workplace, as opposed to just 12% in construction alone.

This is rather impressive for an industry that has been struggling in recent years, and is finally seeing a turnout with a boom predicted over the next four years.

Owen Goodhead, managing director of Randstad CPE, said: "Improving levels of fulfilment further represents a massive opportunity for the sector. With higher professional fulfilment comes lower absenteeism and lower staff turnover."

The research also found that professional fulfillment is highest among those at either the start or end of their careers. 67% of 18 to 24 year olds feel fulfilled, along with 66% of those aged 55 and above.This then diminishes during the middle of people’s careers – the lowest proportion of those who feel fulfilled at work was among those aged 35 to 44 (57%).

"There are huge rewards in terms of fulfilment from keeping on older construction professionals, quite apart from the advantages of continuity and expertise," continued Goodhead. "But we also need to make sure we get plenty of young blood into the profession. At the moment, that's not happening. There's been a 20% growth in the construction workforce since the early 1990s, but that expansion has been uneven across different age groups.

"A major concern is the lack of young entrants into an ageing workforce, with numbers of workers aged 60 and over in the industry having doubled in recent years, while the number of those aged 24 and under has fallen by 27%. While the increasing age profile is most pronounced in the manual workforce, professional trades such as architecture, mechanical and civil engineering could also lose 20% of their manpower to retirement in the next 10 years, so the need for new, younger blood is pressing. If the sector continues to rely disproportionately on the middle-aged, there will be consequences. Our research shows a mid-career crisis is a very real phenomenon."

The research also reveals that women are more likely to be professionally fulfilled than men (17% versus 16%).

Goodhead added: "I don’t think it’s unfair to say construction is not renowned for its gender diversity – approximately 88% of construction project managers and related professionals are men. Our research suggests the gender imbalance may be holding the sector back and dragging professional fulfilment down – despite the fact the sector’s still more satisfied than average.

"To attract more women, the industry needs to offer flexible employment and provide working conditions that suit women. Out goes a culture of long hours, presenteeism and machismo – in comes more part-time employment and a greater attention to work-life balance."

The research was carried out as part of a wider study showing the fulfilment levels of Britain’s workers compared to the rest of Europe and the English-speaking world. Approximately 45,000 employees from the UK were interviewed as well as Britain’s English-speaking and European peers over the course of three years for its Fulfilment@Work report. The findings showed that British workers have had the lowest scores in nine out of the past 13 quarters when compared to European peers, including France and Germany, and nine out of the last 11 quarters when compared to English-speaking countries including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Randstad has launched a campaign named How I Became, inspired by the real stories of real people who are fulfilled at work. A web hub contains films from people who work in a range of business sectors, providing key pieces of advice designed to help future candidates on their path to professional fulfilment.

Via HVP Magazine

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Feeling unfuilfilled in the workplace? Looking for a more physical and/or rewarding line of work? Have you considered changing careers for a fresh start in the construction industry? Here at Access Training Academies we provide high-quality intensive construction training in various trades (including bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, tiling and painting & decorating) to get you the skills and qualifications you need for a long and fulfilling career. To find out more contact our sales team on 0800 345 7492.

We could go on and on about why we feel Access Training is the best place to come for your trade qualifications, but our words don't mean anything unless the students we train can attest to the quality we aim to deliver. That's why we're going to start showcasing some of the positive feedback we've received about our range of intensive training courses, so that any of you reading that are on the fence can see that we really are dedicated to giving our candidates the best qualifications and practical trades training available. You can read more of the testimonials we've received in the past here.

After spending several years abroad, Mark Todd came home to kick start his new career on our Intensive Carpentry training course…

After leaving the Royal Marines around four years ago I got into working on maritime security on ships in East Africa. However after about 3 years I wanted to get a career back home, and I’ve always had an interest in carpentry. I’ve done a few little jobs here and there in the past but wanted to take it a bit further and get qualified.

I was originally going to go back to college but obviously that would have taken around two years to do. With Access Academies I’ve been able to come here and do the course in two months which has been so much better. I’ve come out of the course finishing on a Friday, then gone straight into a job the following Monday.

The eight weeks I’ve spent here have been excellent and I’ve really enjoyed my time. The tutors have been absolutely brilliant – I’ve learnt so much from them and they are always ready to give any advice you need. Not just with the work we do here, but if we’ve got anything else going on outside they’ll do the best they can to help which is really good of them to do off of their own backs. It really gets you raring to go – it got to the point in the last week where I just wanted to get out there and start working.

I’m about to start work with two carpenters doing some refurbishment in a nursing home. The work is ongoing, it’s local and I’ll be picking up experience from people who have been in the trade for 20 years each. Right now I still feel the need to carry on my learning. I plan to self-employed eventually but for the next six months to a year I’m just going to try and pick up as much experience as I can so I’ll be fully prepared.

- Mark Todd, Swansea

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Training Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

The results are in from the Health & Safety Executive's month-long tour of construction sites and its not looking good.

Over September the HSE visited a total of 2607 construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place, and found that safety standards were not being met on 1105 sites - that's nearly half of the total amount!

This news doesn't come as a big surprise when you consider the earlier photos the HSE released of some of the sites they visited (which can be seen here and here), but on 644 sites practices were so poor that enforcement action was needed to protect workers. 539 prohibition notices were served ordering "dangerous activities to stop immediately", while a further 414 improvement notices were issued to order a rise in standards. The most common problems identified included failing to protect workers during activities at height, exposure to harmful dust and inadequate welfare facilities.

Heather Bryant, HSE's Chief Inspector of Construction said: "It is disappointing to find a significant number of sites falling below acceptable health and safety standards, where our inspectors encountered poor practice this often went hand in hand with a lack of understanding.

"Through initiatives like this we are able to tackle underlying issues before they become established and we will continue to work with the industry in an effort to drive up standards.

"However those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce can expect to face tough consequences."

Via Construction Enquirer

Leading economists have forecasted that the construction industry will enter a period of rapid and sustained growth over the next four years, enjoying an impressive 19% increase by 2017.

This estimation comes from the Construction Products Association, who expect the £20 billion expansion to be led by an increase in housing, energy and transport infrastructure. The new forecast comes following a notable rise in the housing industry over the summer, which has led economists to abandon their previous expectations.

Noble Francis, Economics Director of the CPA, said: "Construction is set to enjoy growth over the next four years as it recovers from its worst recession in over 35 years. This is mainly due to private housing, which is experiencing a rapid rise, and infrastructure, which is seeing a more gradual return to positive territory."

"The private housing sector is being driven by recovery in the wider economy and the impacts of policies including Help to Buy, which have driven both house prices and house building. This is expected to lead to private house starts increasing 19.0% in 2013 and 15.0% in 2014, albeit from historic low levels of house building.

"Although rapid growth is predicted over the next 18 months, uncertainty remains around what will happen when the policies end, given that the housing market is unlikely to be self-sustaining by then."

He explained that the infrastructure sector was still recovering from a difficult 2012, where output fell 12.7% despite the government announcing boosts to it.

"Government now appears, however, to be refocusing capital investment towards repairs and renewals. In addition, work on Europe’s largest construction project, Crossrail, is expected to peak over the next 18 months. As a result, growth of 7.4% is forecast in 2014.

"In the longer-term, the prospects for infrastructure will be reliant upon investment in the replacement of energy capacity across nuclear, offshore wind, gas and shale, all of which remain uncertain. Driven by this investment, we predict the sector will enjoy further growth of 27.9% between 2015 and 2017."

But despite this forecasted increase, other key sectors will apparently continue to struggle. Work in the largest sector of commercial (offices and retail) remains one-third lower than its high in 2007, while public sector construction, which accounts for one-third of total industry output, continues to constrain overall growth.

"After suffering from an extremely tough market for over five years, and acting as a drag on UK economic activity, construction is set to grow every year between 2014 and 2017. This should provide a considerable boost to the wider economy," said Francis.

Via Construction Enquirer

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With a construction boom on the way, now is the perfect time to take up a new career in the construction industry. But whichever sector you decide to go in, you'll need the right skills and qualifications - which is where an Access Academies training course comes in. At our state-of-the-art Cardiff centre we off intensive courses in carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, tiling and painting & decorating - all with accredited qualifications to give your new career the boost it needs. For more information on what's on offer get in contact with one of our course advisors by calling 0800 345 7492.

Cardiff Council has called for contractors interested in potentially building an indoor arena and convention centre in the city centre.

Though these plans are still in the early stages, the council is looking for firms interested in these two major building projects, both expected to cost around £60 million to build. Along with the Welsh Government they are exploring a number of different funding options, including potentially borrowing (with a low interest long-term repayment plan) from the Treasury's Public Works Loan Board. Another avenue that has been suggested is the use of tax increment financing.

Talks with other cities and developers have seen it draw up plans for a 15,000-seat capacity indoor arena in a horse-shoe layout, rather than conventional fan-shaped floor plate. It will not only be used to stage major sporting events and concerts, but also annual party political conferences.

Alongside this the council also aims to deliver a 1,500-seat international conference centre with around 500,000 sq ft of exhibition space. The plans are an essential part of the Labour council’s vision for boosting the capital’s economy over the next 20 to 30 years.

Via Construction Enquirer

Government proposals for tougher sentencing on rogue traders has been welcomed by TrustMark, the Government endorsed quality mark for reputable tradesmen.

Following the Sentencing Council's consultation on fraud, bribery and money laundering, a revised framework has been put forward that will affect trades who falsify registeration marks, commit fraud and in some instances even bribe the public.

"The Sentencing Council’s new proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to those cowboys who give tens of thousands of great law-abiding tradesmen a bad name," explains Liz Male, chair of TrustMark. "These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off. The new guidelines are tougher on those who commit multiple offences, especially when the victims are particularly vulnerable."

In addition to this TrustMark is also pushing for even tough penalties on rouge traders fraudulently winning work involving electricity, gas and other potentially fatal substances such as asbestos.

"Tougher, simpler, sentencing guidelines will help us get the message across to rogues that their activities are unacceptable and have no place in our industry," she continues. "Ripping off the vulnerable and putting safety at risk must be deterred and we believe the Sentencing Council’s guidelines go some way to help doing that."

To coincide with this news, TrustMark has introduced a new logo download system this month in an attempt to reduce the risk of fraudulent misrepresentation. Each of its 14,500 registered firms will now be required to use their personalised logo in all of their website and marketing activing, detailing the trades that they have been inspected and licensed for by TrustMark. 

"The new TrustMark logo will provide a more transparent environment of trust for consumers as they will now be able to immediately see if a TrustMark firm has been inspected and is licensed for a particular trade. And tradesmen will be able to give themselves a competitive edge by demonstrating to customers that their work has been inspected and they offer warranties." said Liz.

This year alone TrustMark has had to take action against almost 100 firms that have been found to be misusing its logo, and regularly liaises with Trading Standards and the police when rogue traders are found. It then details each succesful legal action taken on its "Fakes and Forgeries" webpage, in an attempt to warn other homeowners about which business names to avoid.

You can keep up to date with the developments at TrustMark by visiting their official website.

Via Installer Online

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

£617.5 million is planned to be spent on transport and housing infrastructure construction, according to plans published by Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt.

The transport investments will include £40m for the dualling the A465 between Gilwern and Brynmawr, £40m spend on improving the M4 Brynglas tunnel and then £17m for improvements to the A55 in North Wales. £62m will also go toward the first phase of a new scene to create a South East Wales metro system through better bus and rail links.

Meanwhile a total of £170m will go toward housing, £140m of while will be used up until 2016 on the "Help to Buy" scheme. This is in addition to the £34.5m already invested in it during this current financial year.

Other investments included in the plans are £38m toward improving Welsh health facilities (including the final phase of the Noah' Ark Children's Hospital for Wales), £70m for home energy efficiency scheme ARBED ECO and £20m to support a programme of flood and coastal defence improvements.

Jane Hutt said: "Since 2010, the UK government has made significant cuts to our capital budget. By 2015-16 it will be 33% lower in real terms than in 2009-10.

"The tough economic conditions continue but I am determined to use every pound available to invest in infrastructure and boost economic growth in the long-term."

Via The Construction Index

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Are you looking for a new career working in the construction industry? Unsure where to start or lack the necessary qualifications to make it happen? Access Academies offer high quality, intensive courses in bricklaying, carpentry, tiling, plastering and even painting & decorating. Our courses are fully accredited and will provide you with the perfect groundwork to make that dream become a reality. To find out more contact our course advisors on 0800 345 7492.